Objectives: Exposure to child abuse (CA) is associated with an increased risk of developing asthma and allergies; it is unknown if that risk is present across generations. This study investigated if 2-year-old children born to mothers with a history of CA were at an increased risk of receiving a diagnosis of asthma or allergies.
Methods: Data from 1,551 participants were collected as part of the All Our Babies (AOB) study, a prospective pregnancy cohort. During pregnancy, each woman provided information about her own history of CA, and at 24 months postpartum, she provided information about her child's medical diagnoses. Symptoms of maternal depression and anxiety were assessed during pregnancy and at 24 months postpartum.
Results: Unadjusted models showed that compared to children born to mothers without a history of CA, 2-year-old children born to mothers with a history of CA were more likely to have had a diagnosis of asthma (7.4% vs 4.2%, p = .016) or allergy (15.6% vs 9.2%, p < .001). Maternal symptoms of depression assessed in late pregnancy and symptoms of depression and anxiety at 24 months postpartum were significant mediators of the relationship between maternal CA and 2-year-old asthma diagnosis. Maternal symptoms of depression and anxiety assessed in late pregnancy were also significant mediators of the relationship between maternal CA and 2-year-old allergy diagnosis.
Conclusions: The results indicate that maternal exposure to CA is associated with increased risk of asthma and allergy in their 2-year-old children; symptoms of maternal depression and anxiety were identified as pathways linking the variables.
From the Department of Psychology (Tomfohr-Madsen), University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada; Alberta Children's Hospital Research Institute for Child and Maternal Health (ACHRI) (Tomfohr-Madsen), Calgary, Alberta, Canada; Department of Pediatrics (Tomfohr-Madsen, Tough), Alberta Children's Hospital, Calgary, Alberta, Canada; Department of Family Practice (Bayrampour), University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; Community Health Sciences (Tough), University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Address correspondence and reprint requests: Lianne M. Tomfohr-Madsen, PhD, Department of Psychology, University of Calgary, 2500 University Dr NW, Calgary, Alberta, T2N 1 N4, Canada. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Received for publication December 1, 2015; revision received August 19, 2016.